Float Pray Love

Image by stockimages, freedigitalphotos.net

Image by stockimages, freedigitalphotos.net

There’s nothing like the adrenalin rush of a near miss to make even a heathen like me say her prayers. And there’s nothing like a tragedy to make me vow, for the umpteenth time, to savor every moment and not to sweat the small stuff. I had a horrible reminder of this the other day.

It started in Las Vegas. We had come to the desert in search of sun and an easy way to stretch out the last few remaining days of our summer before Koss went back to school. It was 110 degrees in the shade but refreshingly cool in our hotel’s lazy river, where we spent most of our time nursing adult beverages ($5 bottles of Aquafina for Koss) and floating in endless circles. For a couple of blissful days our biggest cares in the world were remembering to reapply sunscreen and trying not to bump into the clumps of rafts that would form from time to time in the pool.

As the sun rose on the last day of our vacation I had that bittersweet feeling that endings always bring. I wasn’t ready for the carefree days of summer to end but was resigned and even starting to look forward to seeing all of my “school friends” I had missed over the last couple of months.

One more day at the pool and then we’d head back to real life.

Zak answered his phone and his mother told him there had been a terrible accident at home in Santa Barbara. An out of control big rig truck had careened into our old house, killing three of the occupants, including a seven year old kid.

We lived in that place for almost ten years-the first ten years of Koss’s life. My heart was pounding as I pictured the truck slamming into the porch where we had stored his stroller, drawn chalk paintings and played hopscotch. I still can’t believe that the bright sunny yellow living room and the sky blue child’s bedrooms I carefully sponge painted were transformed into a place of unspeakable death and destruction.

As I write this, the adrenalin kicks in once again. That could easily have been us. In fact, it would have been us if our landlord hadn’t told us he planned to demolish the building about a year and a half ago.

I take back every evil epithet I threw in his direction when I struggled to find us a new place to live over the Christmas holidays. If he hadn’t kicked us out we would probably still be living there. And if we were still living there we would almost certainly have been asleep when the truck crashed into the house. We’d be dead instead of that poor other family.

I said a small prayer of gratitude for our first landlords (and friends) who sold the building to the guy who forced us out and an even bigger prayer for the family that replaced us, hoping they were at least asleep and truly didn’t know what hit them.

That poor sweet little boy. I know his face will be haunting me for a long, long time.

Within an hour of the accident the phone calls, emails and text messages started pouring in from far-flung friends, some of whom weren’t sure whether or not we still lived there. Even some acquaintances that had never been to our house took the time to call and make sure we were okay.

We weren’t okay, but we sure were lucky. The whole thing was so surreal. It was nice to know there were so many people who cared about us. I wondered if I would have made the effort to reach out if I were in their shoes, and vowed that if something like that ever hit the news again I wouldn’t hesitate to express my concern.

“When something tragic like this happens, the only thing you can really do is hug your loved ones close and treasure every moment you have with them,” said a text from a friend in the Bay Area who had heard the news. “What a perfect reminder for all of us to savor every moment and not to sweat the small stuff.”

Good advice. I think I’ll take it.

When Leslie’s not mulling over her near miss epiphanies, she can be reached at Leslie@LeslieDinaberg.com. For more columns visit www.LeslieDinaberg.comOriginally published in the Santa Barbara Daily Sound on August 27, 2010.

Back to school daze

Photo by stockimages, freedigitalphotos.net

Photo by stockimages, freedigitalphotos.net

It doesn’t seem possible that summer is almost over. We’ve only had three decent beach days and we haven’t dusted off the barbecue or the blender in weeks. Summer’s barely started. How can it possibly be time for school to start again?

There is something fundamentally wrong with going back to school in August, especially this year when the entire summer was engulfed in June gloom.

There should be a law enacted that school can’t start until we’ve had at least a week in Santa Barbara where the weather’s hot enough for wimps like me to go in the ocean above my ankles. There should also be a law that school can’t start until I’ve once again mastered the fine art of carting towels, beach chairs, boogie boards, soccer balls, sunscreen, hats, clothing changes, reading material, snacks and assorted children from the parking lot to the beach in a single trip.

And there should, without a doubt, certainly be a law that school can’t start until after Labor Day. How can you possibly start school before the official end of summer? It doesn’t make sense.

I know a lot of parents jump for joy when summer is over and they can finally escape from their kids, but I’ve never really understood that. How can they be so ready for summer to end when it has barely even begun? Do they really enjoy worrying about bedtime and balanced meals and soccer schedules? Do they really enjoy stressing about how they’ll get any actual work done when there’s so much volunteer work to do?

And seriously, is there a parent alive who really likes “helping” their kid with homework? I’m fairly certain that I forgot everything I learned in sixth grade math before I got to high school, but I’ve retained enough logic that I don’t need to point that out to my 11-year-old. And if you value our relationship, then please don’t mention it to him.

Give a mom a break-I’m trying to maintain some semblance of authority here and don’t ask me how it happened, but the kid has a lot of respect for math. He’s been calculating various ways he’s going to rule the school in sixth grade since he was nine. As much fun as his summer has been, I think he’s actually looking forward to school starting. Crazy kid. Doesn’t he know that summer doesn’t end until AFTER Labor Day?

Can’t we just press the snooze button on summer a few more weeks? Sigh. It is still August, after all. No matter what the school says, MY summer doesn’t officially end till next month.

When Leslie’s not soaking up those last rays of summer every chance she gets, she can be reached at Leslie@LeslieDinaberg.com. For more columns visit www.LeslieDinaberg.com. Originally published in the Santa Barbara Daily Sound on August 20, 2010.

Dance Fever

Image by sattva, freedigitalphotos.net

Image by sattva, freedigitalphotos.net

I love to dance. At concerts, in my living room, in my car, at my desk, in the shower, it doesn’t really matter where. If a good song comes on-whether it’s live, on the radio, on my iPod, or just in my head-I’m compelled to start bopping a body part or two.

I don’t care if I’m dancing with myself. Sure it’s nice to have a husband who likes to join along, but it’s definitely not as essential as I once thought it was. I remember when I was in my 20’s and one of my friends was contemplating marrying a guy who didn’t like to dance. I counseled her against it because I couldn’t imagine spending decades alone on the dance floor.

I didn’t know at that point that by the time she celebrated her tenth anniversary, every adult function we went to the dance floor ratio would be 20 women for every single man. But even if we were all out there dancing by ourselves, no one would care anymore.

Besides, it’s fun to dance to your own tune.

Sometimes my son joins me and sometimes he just laughs at me as I try to restrain myself around his friends. I get it. I know I look silly but I don’t really care.

I used to care. I used to care way too much about a lot of stupid things. But now I look at my younger self-conscious self through the rear view mirror and she makes me laugh out loud and remind myself to dance like no one’s watching, but not caring if they do.

There’s something about middle-aged people rocking out that makes me smile just thinking about it. Our aging bodies may be weighing us down, but somehow music takes us to a lighter place. I can’t think of a better gift.

A lot of grey-ish heads were bopping in the audience at the Lobero this week when Joan Armatrading performed. I loved it. The fact that many of us in the audience (possibly even most of us) had first seen Armatrading perform decades ago only added to the fun both on and off stage. No one cared if they had two left feet-and some of us had as many as three or four-it was all about having fun and enjoying the music.

Plus no one had their kids there to make fun of them.

Apparently mocking your parents’ moves is a universal childhood rite-of-passage. Even Madonna’s teenage daughter Lourdes reportedly got embarrassed, covered her face and blogged about her mom’s dorky enthusiastic dancing at a recent Jay-Z concert.

“My mom was dancing the entire time which is LOL now that I think about it,” she wrote, “but in the moment I was just like, ‘mom, no, please no.'”

If Madonna can no longer be “cool” while dancing, then surely there’s no hope for the rest of us.

That’s okay. I can live with that-just don’t ask me to stop dancing.

Share your dance fever with Leslie@LeslieDinaberg.com. For more columns visit www.LeslieDinaberg.comOriginally appeared in the Santa Barbara Daily Sound on August 31, 2010.

History in the Making

Boehm Family Photo by V. Smith, courtesy Boehm Group

Boehm Family Photo by V. Smith, courtesy Boehm Group

Eric Boehm & Family

Honoring the past while looking toward the future has been a recurring theme throughout the 92 years of Eric Boehm’s life and his most recent venture, Boehm Biography Group, brings together three generations of his own family-son Steven, 49, and grandson Jeff, 25-to help others preserve their heritage and create meaningful legacies.

Boehm’s brush with history began just before World War II in 1934, when his German-Jewish parents’ prescient concerns about their son’s future stirred them to ship 16-year-old Eric from Hof, Germany, to live with his aunt and uncle in Youngstown, Ohio. “If you have to leave home, my suggestion is the time to leave is when you’re 16 years old, because you are young enough to adapt and old enough to be looking for adventure,” twinkles Eric, as he recalls his early life in America.

By the time his parents and brother had escaped Germany in 1941, Eric had received a B.A. from the College of Wooster and was working on his M.A. from Tufts University’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. Those diplomatic skills came into play almost immediately, when he served a critical role in helping dissolve the Supreme Command of the Luftwaffe in Germany at the end of World War II. In a life with many high points, this experience stands out as one of the most significant, says Eric, whose work as an intelligence officer and interrogator is detailed in a new book, The Enemy I Knew (Zenith Press, 2009) by Steven Karras.

After leaving the military, Eric continued to work for the U.S. government in Germany as part of the press scrutiny board, reviewing German newspapers to glean information. While there, he met his wife, Inge Pauli. His cocker spaniel puppy played matchmaker for the couple. ” I took him to work with me every once in a while and he would disappear. He kept going upstairs looking and seeing if Fraulein Pauli was there,” laughs Eric. “She had been feeding him.”

The couple married in a double wedding ceremony with Eric’s brother and sister-in-law in Blake Wood, Illinois in 1948 and worked together until Inge died a decade ago. They had four children: two girls that died as children and two sons, Ronald and Steven, who live in Santa Barbara. If not for an encounter with anti-Semitism from a chemical company, Eric might have become a chemist rather than a historian. He was shattered after losing a job he thought was a sure thing. His history professor pulled some strings, and, unbeknownst to Eric at the time, created a job for him at the University of Massachusetts. While completing his doctoral studies at Yale, Eric published a collection of personal accounts of survival in Nazi Germany.

This passion for preserving knowledge led Eric and Inge to found historical bibliography company ABC-CLIO in 1955. The family and the company moved to Santa Barbara in 1960, soon after they spotted the while town en route to Los Angeles for a vacation. “We said you know, this is a nice place. On our way back let’s stop,” says Eric. “Then we took a hotel room by the beach … and one night here turned into two nights and three nights and four nights and while we were here we looked at houses.” The rest, as they say, is history.

Son Ronald now runs what has grown to become an international academic publishing enterprise.

About five years ago, the family founded Boehm Group. “At 87, I was too young to retire, but I was too old to spell bibliography, so I spelled biography,” smiles Eric, who credits his health and longevity mostly to good genetics. “My father died at 98, and I had a great grandfather who died at 98. The name of one of my ancestors is Liverecht, which translates to ‘live right,’-that’s what I try to do.”

In addition to producing individuals’ biographies to preserve family stories and institutional biographies, such as an upcoming coffee table book commemorating the 100th anniversary of Santa Barbara City College, Boehm Group plans to develop an online program that will offer college degrees in biography, explains Jeff, who is responsible for the technical project management.

“I see huge potential and it’s in the family business-plus I get to spend time with my grandfather and my father,” says Jeff, who affectionately calls his “Opa” (German for grandpa) Eric only when they’re in work mode. “I thought that I’d want to spend time doing something on my own, but this is something exciting that they’re starting new and I’m creating it with them.”

“The idea of working together, making it a family enterprise had meaning to me that I enjoyed,” says Eric. “What greater thing could you have than having a grandfather working with his son and grandson? It’s a real joy.”

Originally published in Santa Barbara Magazine In Spring 2010.